I started taking photos in 2020 as a hobby, the idea of photography excited me as it was a way to see the city and my Vancouver neighbourhood through a different lens.

Growing up my mom loved photography and had always had a Nikon FE around. As a child, I loved holding the camera, turning the knobs and dials, it was a special privilege when I got to hold the camera which and I always thought of it as a great responsibility. I remember looking through albums for her prints that she had developed herself full of beautiful double exposures, landscape views, and candid baby photos all taken with her artistic point of view that always held my attention.

I assumed, as I embarked on my new hobby, that I would be nothing less than a natural, after a small learning curve and reading about the basics I would have beautifully curate shots to proudly display in my own albums. I carefully picked out the same camera I had grown up seeing my mom use, a Nikon FE with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, and set out to be great. My camera arrived with perfect timing in the post a few days before I was leaving for an international trip to Europe.

During the trip, I tried to choose all my shots carefully, acutely aware that I only had 36 shots of Kodak T-MAX 400 to get things right. The weather was mostly rainy so I protectively kept my new treasure tucked away from the wetness many of the days but I did end up taking 4 rolls of film throughout the trip. I spent downtime reading and rereading rules about aperture, and shutter speed, composition, and lighting imaging that I had nailed the concepts and had a few bangers on the roll.

When I arrived home, I began phase two of my plan, developing the film. This part made me more nervous however I was resolute in being in complete control of my shots; start to finish. I watched many YouTube videos and wrote down all the steps, looked up the Massive Dev Chart, checked and doubled checked the timing, and finally developed a practice roll to ensure I had it all right. Things went perfectly, the practice roll was developed with no glitches. I was ready to develop my first real roll of film. Any film photographer can relate to the excitement of seeing their shots for the first time, I was equally nervous and excited but in my heart, I knew everything would work out wonderfully, and soon I would be filling albums full of my own gorgeous prints.

I followed all steps exactly as I practiced, and when I finally pulled the roll of film off the spool my heart sank. The shots were not perfect and something seemed very wrong with the developing process.

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It was not what I had envisioned and I was instantly defeated. What I failed to realize prior to developing the rolls was that some film needs to be rinsed longer than others, something a little more research later taught me.

At first, I was so disappointed that I could not see my shots for what they were, unique and beautiful in their own way. I felt so much pressure to be good right away instead of enjoying the learning process. Once I could see past the expectation I had built up in my mind I was humbled by the experience, I began to love the photos for what they were not what I wanted them to be.

I started to ask myself why I had these great expectations for my first roll of film. How could I expect to be good at something my first time? Why did I assume everything would just work out for me, without putting in the leg work?

I realized that most people probably feel this way in the beginning, mainstream social media, peer and family pressure often shows us how perfect everyone is at their craft and at their art but what people fail to show is the work, the process, and the failures of getting there.

I called this collection of photos The Haunt, and I cherish them more than I would if the roll would have come out perfectly. My first roll taught me that my failures are unique, I learned to let go of perfect standards and simply enjoy the process.

~ Jessica

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About the author

Avatar - Jessica Crawford

Jessica Crawford

I am a beginner photographer living and working in Vancouver, BC. I work as a Respiratory Therapist and I try to pack on as much adventure on my days off as possible. Some of my hobbies include traveling, hiking, camping, swimming and of course photography.


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  1. Jessica – too bad about the developing mishap, but welcome to the club. We’ve all experienced our film developing disasters – at least you have something to show for your efforts, not like time I opened the back of the camera in full sun before I rewound the film, or the time I poured in the fixer FIRST rather than last. These things still hurt but that’s how we learn. I agree that there appear to be particles of unresolved developer that adhered to the film. My personal favorite developer is HC-110 (everybody has their own favorite). It’s a liquid concentrate – it lasts forever and is very easy to use. Kodak says to make a stock solution, but most people use it straight from the bottle with a medicine syringe at 1:31 dilution (dilution B) or 1:63 dilution (dilution H). Check out “The Massive Developing Chart” for starter times.
    Good luck on your journey into film photography.

  2. I’m absolutely delighted that you are using film. So many have turned their back on it and became sniffy at the sight of a Nikon F2/Canon FTbn/Leicaflex/Minolta SRT101 etc. Of course weee did not have to remember to plug it into the mains at night before patting the dog on the bottom of the bed and switching the bedside table lamp off. I’ve a pair of ancient Leica M3 bodies, 1954 & 1960. The earlier one is rather shabby, did it see service in ‘Nam?’ Or possibly with a seaside photographer in the late 60s. Ah the pixels.
    Digital Johnny is snapping up the R series lenses for the Leicaflex trio and R3-4-5-6-7-8-9 & R-E bodies as he’s got Chinese made adapters to put them onto his electronic wonder. Manual focus and stopped-down aperture priorities metering but hey, it’s a Leica lens! Some electronic cameras give out a ‘beep’ when he has nailed the focus (manual of course). Digital Johnny: ‘what’s dat? Me: ‘ camra‘.

    The Nikon FE is a very well respected camera and one of the forerunners of the compact-size cameras – FM, FE, FA etc culminating in the FM3A, a combination of the FM/FE.

    The 50mm lens is a great all rounder and I use it a lot as my viewfinders have a frame just inside for 50 as well as frames for 90mm and 135mm that pop up when I put the lens on. I sometimes use a 35mm lens and either just use the whole viewfinder or pop a separate SBLOO viewfinder in the shoe at the top for precise framing (rarely needed). I like Tri-X, Ektar 100 and Ilford XP2 Super films.

  3. Very good start.
    To tell you the truth : You have the best kit at a good price, a Leica will not give you better. The FE is a marvelous camera with a auto mode, and the 50mm serie E Nikon is a top lens, not the best, but at f/5.6 or 8, is as good that the Nikkor or Summicron.
    The Tmax is a great film.
    what about your camera back, is it sealed well ?
    By the way, I will say that for a start it is excellent. Just continue, enjoy, and take pictures, your way to see the things is very artistic : Bravo.

  4. I doubt this is rinse related. Looks like you had some particles in the developer. Maybe if using powdered developer, it wasn’t fully dissolved.

  5. Dear Jessica, thank you for sharing «The Haunt». Of course they are not what you expected, but I find them quite magical… the developing process added a layer of mystery to them that is hard to fake in Photoshop or elsewhere. And it kind of suits the images, a bit like a David Lynch movie shines through the scenery!